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Hope found in football at camp for foster kids

TAMPA — Kevon Dooley can see himself in the spotlight someday.

Maybe acting. Maybe modeling. But for Dooley, one of thousands of bay area foster children, envisioning the future itself is a tall task.

"We all have been through a lot," he said.

Dooley, 19, has been in the foster care system for four years, smack dab in the middle of his teenage years. And although Dooley has faced his share of struggles, it's days like Saturday that buoy his hopes that his future is just as bright as any other kid's.

For the second year in a row, Dooley will take part in the second annual Tampa Bay Rising Stars Football Camp, a free event specifically geared toward local foster children.

"It was a blast last year," Dooley said. "I can't wait."

Current and former Buccaneers Jude Adjei-Barimah, Maurice Stovall, Jeremiah Warren and Michael Clayton will be providing football and hope for the 80-plus kids in attendance.

"I want to give these kids a chance to be a part of something they don't have the resources to be a part of," camp organizer Orlando Gonzalez said. "Almost all these camps cost money. These kids don't have these resources. I want to give them the same experience as the paid camps."

Gonzalez, who worked in foster care for the past decade and a half, partnered with Camelot Community Care last year to put on the inaugural camp. Former Buc Jorvorskie Lane, who was raised by his grandparents, made a huge impression on the campers.

"It was great talking to him," Dooley said. "It was very motivating for me and the rest of us."

Gonzalez, who recently took a marketing position with a construction staffing firm, wasn't sure he'd be able to pull off the camp again this year, but he said the positive reaction he got from the kids drove him to find a way.

"I still stop by the group homes all the time and the kids kept asking when we were going to do another camp," he said. "They just loved it. I didn't want to let them down. You could tell how much it meant to them."

Second-year cornerback Adjei-Barimah knows all about struggling to overcome odds. Adjei-Barimah, who wasn't even a full-time starter at Bowling Green until his senior season, made an impact with the Bucs last year despite being an undrafted free agent.

"I want them to be able to say, 'Hey, he went through a lot of adversity and a lot of things, but look where he's at now,' " Adjei-Barimah said.

Adjei-Barimah said although his road to the NFL was filled with obstacles, it pales in comparison to what foster kids go through. But he hopes sharing his message of beating the odds can motivate some of the campers.

"If I can just reach one or two kids and inspire them to push farther in life and chase their dreams, I will have done my job as a role model," he said.

The camp will include drills during the morning session, followed by lunch and a 7-on-7 tournament in the afternoon. And Gonzalez said he told his instructors to treat the kids "just like they were at any other football camp."

"These kids thrive on challenges," he said. "So I told all these coaches to go hard at them. Don't hold back."

Dooley will be running routes and pushing blocking sleds Saturday. He recently graduated from Bowers-Whitley Career Center and plans to attend Hillsborough Community College in the fall. And though Dooley has already cleared a number of hurdles so far in life, he believes the best is still to come.

"We got a chance to see and talk to the (NFL) players and hear about what they've overcome," Dooley said. "I feel like I have a lot to look forward to."

Hope found in football at camp for foster kids 06/08/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 8, 2016 4:11pm]
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